A well-known and respected Olympic doctor, Larry Nassar, was recently charged and convicted of numerous counts of sexual assault against his patients, mostly teenaged girls at the time of the incidents, some younger and some who are now college-age. It was exposed that not only had the doctor violated these child atheletes but that the Olympic Committee and Michigan State University had perpetrated a massive cover-up to keep the crime quiet.
(Pictured below; Aly Raisman, one of the survivors)
Last week during the sentencing phase video was taken of the proceedings and victim impact statements. Michigan State University’s athletics teams were among those “treated” by this doctor who committed heinous sexual acts upon these girls under the guise of “medical treament.” Many of the girls were in gymnasics, and another who spoke was on the volleyball team.
This is hard to listen to but it is necessary that patients and families be aware this can happen in order to take steps to protect themselves and those they love. People need to look at this and insist that society take its blinders off and starts supporting those whose lives have been turned upside down be a doctor. Those who have the audacity to turn it back on patients must stop re-abusing them, but instead place the blame squarely where it belongs; on the perpetrator.
It had taken 20 years of reports before law enforcement took action, and over 100 victim reports. 98 young women gave victim impact statements.
Several of the girls reported to coaches and members of administration the doctor’s perverted behavior in sticking his ungloved hand up their vaginas and claiming this was “to treat a pulled hamstring” and similar odd unlikely explanations. Instead of horror and action on their behalf their attempts to alert people of what was going on was met with contempt, lack of empathy, and disbelief in their story.
One coach told a girl she was lying and that she should be ashamed for saying such a thing against this doctor whom everyone thought was “the best.” Numerous people in the University and Olympic systems denied anything happened and this caused not only the victims but their families immeasurable suffering. With the utter lack of justice persisting for so many years many of those affected turned their aguish inward, even questioning their own reality.
The first plaintiff, Kyle Stephens whose parents were also doctors and family friends of the perpetrator was only about 5 years old when the pedophile took her downstairs in the basement biolerroom when the families got together, then rubbed his bare penis on her feet calling it “a foot rub” to convince the girl it was normal behavior. Even then she did not completely buy his explanation. This progressed to penetrating her with his fingers. It went on for some time and finally she mustered the courage to tell her parents what he was doing.
Instead of protecting the child and filing criminal charges against the doctor, her parents asked him if he did it and readily accepted his denial, turned on her, told her they didn’t believe her and said that she should apologize to him. This caused a rift in family relationships for years and resulted in severe psychological damage to the victim and family. Only when other girls came forward did they believe their daughter’s story was true. Racked with guilt, her father later committed suicide.
Another victim impact statement was delivered by a mother of one of the victims…because after years of suffering with this trauma alone even counseling wasn’t enough to keep her from ending her life. It is very likely that had this monster been prosecuted earlier and victims given the respect and empathy they deserved from the outset that this young woman would still be alive today.
Even her mother needed counseling to deal with the wreckage and long-term lack of justice.
When I filed a police report against my perpetrator for the abuses he subjected me to, the on-call neurologist in Emory Healthcare’s ER on Clifton Rd.
I was told by a police detective that “no judge will issue an arrest warrant on a doctor.”
Well not anymore! Apparently there are judges who will.
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina made no bones about it that she would make no excuses for nor accept any from this man who preyed upon his innocent patients and took advantage of their trust and abused his medical license to violate the Hippocratic Oath. In the end he was sentenced to 60 years in prison.
This case parellels mine in that it was not merely a doctor acting on his own, but a whole system that colluded to let it happen and to keep it quiet; a massive cover-up because it was an “inconvenient” truth. They put their institution’s reputation above the safety of these patients. Different details, same MO.
It is said that for every rat you see there are hundreds you don’t. This case will likely yield important caselaw helpful in the prosecution of other abuser doctors. It is a step in the right direction toward recognizing this as a crime and validating its survivors, but it is only the beginning towards solving this human rights problem as long as corporations remain safe havens for the perpetrators. Legislation with real teeth in it is still needed so that patients will have some real protection from abuse by doctors and other healthcare professionals.
130 of these young women who were assaulted are filing civil suits. In some instances these girls were abused with their mother’s in the room but they couldn’t see fully from where they were sitting. When one mother questioned certain positions he was placing her daughter in Nassar made conscending remarks to deflect away from what he was doing and placed himself so that it obscured her view.
To assume that abuse couldn’t happen with others in the room is just simply naiive!
We patients would like 2018 to be the year something profound is done about it for all abused patients. Close the loopholes and officially make this a clear-cut hate crime under not only civil but criminal statutes. You can make your voices heard here by signing the petition and adding your story.
It’s high time for a Patient’s Bill of Rights that holds every enabler on each level in the chain of command accountable. The Sacred Cow mentality surrounding the medical profession needs to end. Doctors should have no more special treatment than anybody else who abuses another, and if anything penalties against them should be even stiffer than when it happens elsewhere in society because of the inherent imbalance of power in the doctor/patient relationship.
If the medical board wants to stonewall and protect these creeps, let them be brought to justice with them! There should be nowhere for them to hide; not in University systems, not in professional sports settings, and not in professional associations and boards.
I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of this precedent-setting case. There is more to come as the institutions who allowed him to continue committing these heinous acts and covered them up will undoubtedly have to face the music as well.
My message to survivors is this; don’t give up hope. Tell somebody and if they don’t listen and respond with compassion then keep telling others until you find those who get it! It is those who did this to you and those who did nothing to intervene who should be embarrassed. Only by speaking out can we combat the code of silence. Eventually the right people will know that you’re telling the truth. The more patients who refuse to be silenced the swifter that real change and justice will come.